On February 9, 2005, about 1530 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-28-140 airplane, N6399W, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing after experiencing a loss of engine power near Superior, Montana. The certificated private pilot and his sole passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight, and a flight plan was not filed. The flight departed Three Rivers, Montana, approximately 1400, with a destination of Libby, Montana.

In a telephone interview with the NTSB investigator-in-charge, and according to the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2), the pilot reported that he departed Idaho Falls (IDA), Idaho earlier in the day with five hours of fuel on board. The pilot stated his route of flight was from IDA to Libby, Montana, with a stop in Three Rivers, Montana. The pilot reported that his time en route to Three Rivers was approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes. The pilot further reported that he departed Three Rivers for Libby at 1400, but elected to land at Superior after noticing both fuel gages were indicating less than one-quarter full. The pilot reported that by the time he reached Superior the elapsed time en route had been about 3 hours and 30 minutes. The pilot further reported that as he approached Superior with the intention of overflying the runway, he observed an airplane on the approach end of the runway, and all attempts to make radio contact with the aircraft using the common traffic advisory frequency were to no avail. The pilot reported that he then began maneuvering the airplane from one side to the other relative to the final approach course hoping the other airplane would depart so he could land. While maneuvering the airplane's engine began running rough and "quit totally." The pilot related that after the engine failed, "...I tried [the] checklist and [called] out emergency." The pilot stated that he then used a slip maneuver to try to bring the airplane down towards the end of the runway. The pilot related, "We were toward the end of the runway when [the] power came back on. I gained a little elevation and airspeed slipping to the right of the runway when the power went out again." The pilot reported that he then spotted a clearing and set the airplane down in a field, impacting a mound which caused the front landing gear to fail aft, impacting the firewall. The pilot also reported that he didn't remember for sure which tank the fuel selector was on when the event happened but thought it was on the right tank. The pilot stated that he could not remember if he had activated the airplane's boost pump during the engine restart procedure and didn't know if he had moved the fuel selector to the left tank position.

A Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness inspector from the Helena, Montana, Flight Standards District Office traveled to the accident site. The inspector reported that the nose landing gear had failed rearward and upward resulting in substantial damage to the airplane's firewall. Additional damage to the airplane consisted of the engine mount being bent, one propeller blade curled back, and the nose cowling bent and twisted. The inspector also reported that fuel was detected in each fuel tank and the gascolator.

Prior to recovering the aircraft both fuel tanks were drained by a certificated airframe and powerplant mechanic. The mechanic reported the left tank contained 5.5 gallons, while the right tank was virtually empty, with possibly a quart of fuel remaining. The mechanic also reported the aircraft had come to rest in an upright position with a collapsed nose gear and the nose of the airplane in a slightly nose down attitude. The fuel pump was turned on and was operationally functional, and the fuel selector was observed to be positioned in the LEFT TANK position. A cylinder compression check was conducted with no anomalies noted. The spark plugs were removed with no oil observed and no carbon or lead buildup.

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